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Nuclear medicine at UHL

Siemens Symbia Intevo Excel Gamma Camera at LRI
Siemens Symbia Intevo Excel Gamma Camera at LRI

 In Nuclear Medicine we offer many kinds of tests and treatments.

We use radiopharmaceuticals, which are small amounts of radioactive chemicals, sometimes referred to as radionuclides or radioisotopes. These enable us to see the structure of organs and how they are working.

Within Nuclear Medicine there are three types of services provided:

  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Non-Imaging Procedures 
  • Molecular radiotherapy procedures

Each service offers lots of different procedures, but what happens during your visit will be similar.

Imaging Procedures

Most patients who visit us are imaging outpatients. You are usually given a small arm injection of a radiopharmaceutical, no more painful than typical blood test. It is very rare for anyone to experience side-effects.

Children are given anaesthetic cream before they have the injection. They will have a parent or carer with them and there are books, toys and someone to chat with. 

You may be asked to sit or lie still on a couch while the camera takes images. You will not be completely enclosed in the camera; it does not make much noise and the gamma camera will move close to you but will never touch you. 

The radiopharmaceutical given to you is chosen to target a specific part of the body. We can use this technique to look at a wide variety of organs and diseases. The exact area depends on what the doctor wants to look for.

The camera can see where the radiopharmaceutical has gone and creates a picture of the distribution of radiation in the body. If there is more radiation in one area, this will show up as a darker area in the final image. This can be used to see how an organ functions, for example watching the radiopharmaceutical move through the kidneys.

Non-imaging procedures

The most common of these tests is Glomerular Filtration Rate, which is used to see how well the kidneys are functioning. A small amount of radiopharmaceutical is given to you as an injection. Blood samples are then collected.

The amount of radiation in the samples is counted and the results are put into a graph. The graphs are then used to determine whether the samples are within normal limits.

Molecular radiotherapy

Nuclear medicine may also be used for therapy. Larger amounts of radiopharmaceuticals are given to you and are designed to go to the diseased areas in the body. The radiopharmaceuticals used are different from those used for diagnosis as the radiation kills the diseased tissue. The therapy radioisotopes usually come in small capsules which you swallow.

For some therapies a short stay in hospital is required. However, more than 95% of our therapies are done on an outpatient basis. 

What about the radiation dose?

We are all exposed to radiation from natural sources each year. The dose from many of our scans is small, around the average amount we are exposed to in a year. Most of it passes straight through you.

Nuclear medicine procedures must be justified, the benefit of having the investigation will far outweigh the risk of the radiation dose.  

More information:

If you would like any further information about any aspect of nuclear medicine please see our Further Information page or contact us.